By Ana Skara
Everyone around the world loves the Disney films and its characters, and as Japan is the land of anime-loving people, Mickey and all his friends are greatly loved. The atmosphere at Disneyland Tokyo is polite, friendly and cheerful- you won't find a more pristine Disney lot anywhere. The crowd is also entertaining as most are completely decked out in lively Disney hats, t-shirts, dresses and other Disney themed accessories- you'll marvel at their dedication to the theme.
When Disneyland first opened in Japan in the 80's it was the first branch to open outside of the US. It has grown in popularity each year and continues to be a huge hit with Japanese and foreign tourists alike. In fact, it has been so popular that in 2001 the company that runs Tokyo DisneyLand opened a companion theme park nearby called DisneySea.
The DisneySea park is considered a more "romantic" version of Disney as it offers more dining choices, a central water view (with reflections of the fireworks at night), Gondola rides and European style streets to wander as well as a variety of more usual Disney attractions. The promotion materials seem aimed more at young couples on dates and teenagers than families.
We went to DisneySea last year so we decided to enjoy a day at the original park this time. We were a bit scared to go during the high season as we were warned of excessive lines and crowds on the weekend, but we had a great, family day out. Sure it was crowded, but there were parades through the main streets every few hours which kept the lines of people waiting for rides and at the attractions to a minimum.
We would wander around and enjoy the sights, food and atmosphere and only join lines that were 30 minutes or less. At the more popular rides, we registered for the fast pass early in the day so we could head back to enjoy them later (at the designated time) and bypass the long lines. Many people waited for up to 2 hours for the popular rides like "Splash mountain" but with fast pass, we were in the front of the line in 5-10 minutes.
Compared to other Disney theme parks around the world I've been to, this Tokyo Disneyland seems a lot more spacious, cleaner and more efficient than the original park in LA. This made it easy to wander around to the different areas to enjoy the varied views, food and rides. It would be great if there were a telephone app available to let you know which rides had shorter waiting times as I am sure they fluctuate throughout the day. However, we found more than enough to keep us entertained, well fed and happy.
If you'd like to meet some of the Disney characters, and you are able to get to the park when the gates open, I recommend heading straight to the Crystal palace restaurant (Adventureland). Here you can enjoy the special breakfast which allows you to meet and pose with a few famous characters while you eat. It was a really wonderful chance to get personalized attention from the mascots which made it a special start to the day for our kids. We found very few other opportunities to see the characters in costumes during the day as they are busy performing in the parades.
There is no need to worry much about the language barrier here, although announcements and performances are done in Japanese, all the essential information is also available in English.
No food or drink is allowed to be brought into the park unless you have special dietary requirements or allergies (just mention it to the staff as they check your bags on the way in the gate). We were happy to find fresh cut fruit snack stands and fruit juices and smoothies available alongside the more typical junk food theme park fare. Vegetarians will find it a bit of a challenge, but there are options at the Sweetheart Cafe Bakery or Village Pastry, there are also vegetarian options at the Eastside Cafe, but most other options around the park are very meaty.
Some people prefer to stay overnight near the park for convenience, but we commuted in from Yokohama station on the Disney bus (50 minutes) and arrived just before the gates opened at 8am.
Tokyo's Disneyland "Maihama" station is 50 minutes from Yokohama station, 45 minutes from Haneda airport following a direct train line (clearly listed in English) and only 15 minutes from the main Tokyo JR station. You can see all the access details on this page.
There is wheelchair access to most of the rides and attractions, baby changing facilities in most restrooms, stroller rentals available.
Find out more about Tokyo Disneyland
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I've been living in Hiroshima since the mid 90's & still discovering new things to enjoy. I'm a big fan of both the old "wabi sabi" as well as modern and new designs, Japan offers both of these type of places to explore and enjoy. Even after many years here, I am still discovering surprising, fantastic and wacky things about this strange and wonderful land. I hope you enjoy your adventures around Japan- feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about traveling with kids, vegetarian dining or anything specific to Hiroshima.